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Old 03-21-2008, 12:17 AM   #1
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Recipe Research and Development

So, a few days ago, my Exec. Chef is discussing with me what he wants to run for the specials this week, and that he wants to start developing a recipe for Crab Cakes WITH NO BINDING ingredients, if such a thing is possible. He gives me a few pointers, and tells me to play around with the concept.

Also, he mentioned that we aren't going to be buying the boxed Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild rice mix, but making it FROM SCRATCH. We have both kinds of rice, just need the seasonings.

Well, I got to playing around with crab cakes the past couple of days, since they're on the special menu right now. Now, the recipe I'm using has panko bread crumbs and egg for a binder. However, there's just as much crab as binder. They taste great.

Well, I took some of the lump crabmeat, sauteed some onions, added some seasoning, and VERY GENTLY mixed those together by hand. I shaped them up into patties, and froze them. That was yesterday.

Today, I did the same thing, but added a little egg white. That mix was shaped into patties and frozen.

The first mix, without any binding ingredients at all, was floured, egg-washed, and dredged in panko. I seared it off in a little clarified butter on one side, flipped, and into a 500 degree F oven for 6 minutes. Once cooked, I let the cakes rest a minute or two before we taste-tested them.

The second batch, with egg white, was also cooked in the same fashion.

RESULTS: Both types actually held together. I was expecting the one with egg white to hold together, but the first, without any binding, surprised me. The texture was very good, with the second version being a little tighter, due to the egg white. The Food & Beverage manager, GM, and my Sous Chef all tried them, and liked them.

I'll have to do a third run, probably with both kinds, to show the Chef.

This is all in preparation for a major function next weekend (the club I work for is celebrating it's 100th b-day).

I did a little looking around on the internet, and found a copycat recipe for Uncle Ben's. Since it was dead-slow, and I really don't like going to the boss without testing a recipe first, I did a trail-run on the recipe, verbatim from the website, with one minor change. The "original" recipe calls for 1 T chicken bouillon powder. We actually do have some, but it tastes like complete junk. I can't stand using that (one of these days, I may chuck it in the trash, if I can get away with it). I substituted some chicken base instead of the bouillon powder.

Results: Pretty darn close. The "original" recipe also called for 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, which I knew was going to be to much, and it was. 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon would probably be plenty. I'll have the Chef taste the stuff I made, probably tomorrow.

Whenever I'm doing a project like this, I always keep a couple copies of the recipe I doing, the original, and my "working" version, which usually gets updated each time. Sometimes, I've even been known to keep a log of what changes I've made each time, and the results.

Anybody else got any interesting stories about R&D for recipes?

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Old 03-21-2008, 12:26 AM   #2
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When I monkey around with a TNT recipe I always keep notes on my changes - complete with commentary on what worked and what didn't, and why.
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Old 03-21-2008, 01:24 AM   #3
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I applaud anyone who can taste a food with more than 2 ingredients and figure out not only what the ingredients are but work out the right amounts! It must come from years of cooking and tasting (along with magical powers). I've been trying to figure out and copy the ingredients in the Near East Original Rice Pilaf spice packet. I know it has tumeric, or at least I think so. But as far as anything else, I'm clueless.
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Old 03-21-2008, 11:43 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisher's Mom View Post
I applaud anyone who can taste a food with more than 2 ingredients and figure out not only what the ingredients are but work out the right amounts! It must come from years of cooking and tasting (along with magical powers).
Years, yes. Magical powers, no. Heck, I've been playing around formulating and using my own spice mixes for over 10 years, ever since I was in college.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisher's Mom View Post
I've been trying to figure out and copy the ingredients in the Near East Original Rice Pilaf spice packet. I know it has tumeric, or at least I think so. But as far as anything else, I'm clueless.
The package should list the ingredients on the back. Unless they give a generic "spices" as one of the ingredients, then there's probably a proprietary formulation in there. You can run imperical experiements trying to derive the ratios, but it could take a long, long, time to figure it out. Some spices/herbs don't really give much in the way of flavor, and are there more for color, like turmeric and parsley. Other herbs/spices are rather potent, and used sparingly.

I've never tried that particular brand. I usually make my own pilaf from scratch. Is it readily available?
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Old 03-21-2008, 11:51 AM   #5
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I just pulled my one box of Uncle Ben's out of the cupboard. I looked at the ingredients, and the vegetables are listed as: Onion, spinach, Garlic, Celery, Tomato, Carrot. The recipe I have only uses dried onion, onion powder, and garlic powder. No celery, tomato, or carrot. Hmmmm. I may have to fiddle around with minute amounts of those for the next batch. Or not. The trial run I did smelled like Uncle Ben's, but had way to much turmeric in it. The second batch (I might be making at home soon) will really tell the tale.
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Old 03-21-2008, 12:36 PM   #6
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About the crab, you said "no binders". So I'm guessing that means internal binders like egg?

What about an external "binder"? You could overlap thinly sliced veggies to create a shell, if you will. And the crab would be housed inside. Or what about a thin dough-based shell?
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenOK View Post
The package should list the ingredients on the back. Unless they give a generic "spices" as one of the ingredients, then there's probably a proprietary formulation in there. You can run imperical experiements trying to derive the ratios, but it could take a long, long, time to figure it out. Some spices/herbs don't really give much in the way of flavor, and are there more for color, like turmeric and parsley. Other herbs/spices are rather potent, and used sparingly.

I've never tried that particular brand. I usually make my own pilaf from scratch. Is it readily available?
It's available at a lot of Wal-Marts, regular grocery stores and Whole Foods here. The ingredients list is as follows: parboiled long grain rice, orzo (macaroni product made from wheat flour), salt, dried autolyzed yeast extract, dried onions, dried garlic, tumeric spice which imparts color. The rice and the orzo are no problem but where do I start when trying to figure out the amounts for the other stuff? And what the heck is autolyzed yeast extract? Is that a preservative? Any assistance as to where to start would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisher's Mom View Post
It's available at a lot of Wal-Marts, regular grocery stores and Whole Foods here. The ingredients list is as follows: parboiled long grain rice, orzo (macaroni product made from wheat flour), salt, dried autolyzed yeast extract, dried onions, dried garlic, tumeric spice which imparts color. The rice and the orzo are no problem but where do I start when trying to figure out the amounts for the other stuff? And what the heck is autolyzed yeast extract? Is that a preservative? Any assistance as to where to start would be greatly appreciated.


Autolyzed Yeast Extract
It's basically MSG.

It sounds like there are no "secret" herbs or spices in there. I would start with something like this.

1/2 cup parboiled long grain rice
1/2 cup orzo
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. MSG (Accent seasoning)

Give it a try and see what happens HTH. And let us know!
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Old 03-21-2008, 02:49 PM   #9
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Wow!! Thanks so much, GG! My family loves this stuff and it's $2.29 for a 3 serving package. I'm even willing to do that but since it takes 3 boxes for a meal at my house, I end up running out of it. I will be trying this tonight and I'll definitely let you know how it goes. Thank you, thank you! You're the best.
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Old 03-21-2008, 04:10 PM   #10
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Allen, I'm confused as to what your chef considers and does not consider to be a binding ingredient. Egg to me is considered a binding ingredient. I might have a couple of ideas for you to play around with, but I want to make sure I'm on the same page before I suggest them.
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